Buried penis: causes, complications, and treatment

Reviewed by Chimene Richa, MD, 

Written by Michael Martin 

Reviewed by Chimene Richa, MD, 

Written by Michael Martin 

last updated: Mar 22, 2022

3 min read

It may be disheartening for some people when they look down and can’t see their full penis. This can happen when skin and fat tissue fold over the penis, causing what’s known as a buried penis. But why does this happen, and is there anything you can do about it? There are many possible causes, some of which are easily treatable. Keep reading to learn more. 

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What is a buried penis?

Buried penis (also known as inverted penis, hidden penis, or retracted penis) is a condition in which the penis is covered by excess skin and fat tissue from the surrounding structures like the abdomen, scrotum, or public area. 

Some people are born with a buried penis (congenital buried penis), and in others, it begins in adulthood. It’s different from a micropenis, in which the penis is smaller than two inches long. A buried penis is an average size but appears smaller because it’s covered by skin. 

What causes an inverted penis?

While someone can be born with a buried penis, it’s considered “acquired” when it happens in adulthood, usually related to another health condition. No matter the cause, it can have a big impact on quality of life. Luckily, treatments are often available. Some causes of an acquired buried penis include:

Excessive fat tissue

In adults, the most common cause of a buried penis is obesity (Cohen, 2021). People with obesity can have excess fat tissue in the area above the penis (the suprapubic fat pad). This fat pad can envelop the penile shaft and make it look shorter than it is. Weight loss often helps to resolve the condition. 

Injuries

When too much of the foreskin is removed during circumcision—often called “radical circumcision”—the penis can be pushed upward into the pubis (Pestana, 2009). This is also known as a "trapped penis." If not enough foreskin is removed, the penis might retract into the remaining foreskin and cause a buried penis (Zimmerman, 2011). 

Other injuries that may lead to a buried penis include trauma to the penis from infection or burns. Some common penis enlargement procedures (surgeries or injecting chemicals into the penis) can have complications like retraction or scarring that can shorten the visible part of the penis (Pestana, 2009; Ho, 2018).

Inflammation

Conditions that cause inflammation of the genital skin may also cause a buried penis. For example, the glans (head) of the penis may be chronically inflamed by a skin condition called balanitis xerotica obliterans. This causes the glans to tunnel under the penile skin—ultimately leading to the appearance of a buried penis. It can sometimes be treated with a prescription steroid cream, but surgery may be necessary (Hartley, 2011). 

Scrotal swelling 

Some health conditions can cause fluid to build up in the scrotum (a condition called lymphedema), causing it to swell and bury the penis (Ho, 2018).

Congenital causes of buried penis syndrome

Some congenital causes (causes you’re born with) of buried penis include:

Weak penile ligaments

Some people are born with a condition called dysgenic dartos, in which the skin of the penis isn’t properly attached to the ligaments that support it. This can cause the penis to slide like a telescope into the scrotum, creating a buried penis (Anandan, 2018).

Webbed penis

Webbed penis is a condition in which the skin of the scrotum attaches to the skin of the penile shaft. This may cause it to become buried in the scrotal skin (El-Koutby, 2010).

Complications of buried penis

A buried penis may cause physical or psychological complications, including:

  • Erectile dysfunction: A buried penis can make it difficult to have an erection hard enough or long enough for satisfying sex (Anandan, 2018).

  • Urinary tract issues: A buried penis may cause difficulty urinating, urine leakage, a weak urine stream, and urinary tract infections (Ho, 2018). This may result in chronic inflammation that can damage the penile skin.

  • Balanitis: Chronic inflammation may lead to balanitis, inflammation of the glans. 

  • Phimosis: Inflammation may also cause phimosis, a condition in which the foreskin becomes so tight that it’s difficult or impossible to retract (Anandan, 2018).

  • Cancer: People with a buried penis have an increased risk of penile cancer (Pekala, 2019)

  • Mental health concerns: A person with a buried penis may experience low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression (Ho, 2018)

How to treat a buried penis  

People with symptoms of a buried penis should talk with a healthcare provider to help decide on the best treatment plan for their needs. For example, people with obesity and a buried penis may improve with weight loss. 

Surgical treatment is an option if necessary. Usually, surgery is done to remove fat tissue and rebuild the structures that support the penis. The specific treatment depends on the cause and symptoms of each individual. 

Common surgical treatments include a “tummy tuck” (abdominoplasty), which removes fat tissue and tightens the muscles near the base of the penis. Liposuction may be used to remove fat from the public area or lower abdomen. A skin grafting procedure (Z-plasty) may be necessary if the skin is severely damaged (Zhao, 2009).

If you suspect you may have a buried penis, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider to help you identify the best next steps to take. 

DISCLAIMER

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

March 22, 2022

Written by

Michael Martin

Fact checked by

Chimene Richa, MD


About the medical reviewer

Dr. Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and medical writer for Ro.

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